A lack of sleep can lead to issues with concentration, productivity, immunity, and positive thinking. A shocking one in three people in America do not get the right amount of sleep every single night – and that’s just the adults.
The correct amount of nightly sleep is between 7 to 9 hours, depending on your body’s unique needs. This means chucking aside your devices and focusing on getting to bed instead of binge-watching your favorite shows! It also means trying to have a regular, reasonable sleep schedule.
But what happens if you’re doing everything you can to ensure you receive sufficient sleep, but still fall short? What if you simply can’t sleep, and lay awake for hours? What if you wake up constantly during the night, or wake up still feeling exhausted?
Believe it or not, these sleep issues could be caused by some kind of deficiency. If you’re lacking a certain nutrient or hormone, your body may be unable to get the rest it needs.
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is water-soluble and cannot be made by the human body on its own. Mostly, it can be found in animal products, so it’s important for those who don’t eat meat to make sure they’re getting enough of it.
A lack of this vitamin has been linked time and time again to a variety of sleep issues, including insomnia, restless sleep, and fatigue during the day. Though the exact effects are still being studied, there is plenty of evidence that shows that taking B12 supplements in small doses can boost sleep quality and prevent sleep disturbance.
In addition, a lack of vitamin B12 in one’s diet can lead to mood issues, including depression and a lack of positive thinking. These problems can make you feel even more tired, or, worse still, exacerbate existing sleep troubles in general. You might toss and turn, have a mind too full to relax or find yourself waking up throughout the night.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Sleep issues
- Poor digestion
- Headaches and migraines
- Cognitive decline
Here are some food options for extra vitamin B12:
- Animal kidneys
- Animal liver meat
- Fortified cereal
- Nutritional yeast
- Milk and dairy
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency doesn’t sound like it would be very common, but a shocking 41% of people in the US have this issue to some degree. It makes sense, however, when you think about how many people spend their lives indoors, working in offices or doing other similar tasks; additionally, many people are aware of the dangers of intense sunlight and try to avoid it.
The body produces vitamin D naturally when you are out under the sun; it’s not extremely common in sufficient doses in food, though there are some places you can get it. More importantly, a lack of vitamin D can actually manifest in a higher risk of developing different sleep disorders, including insomnia. As a matter of fact, any erratic or unusual composition of vitamin D makes it hard to fall asleep.
Too much vitamin D – whether from consuming too many supplements or basking in too much UVB light – is just as bad and can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day. This will essentially mess up the body’s natural sleep cycle, so you won’t be able to fall asleep when night falls. Meanwhile, in men, a lack of vitamin D can lead to less than five hours of night sleep.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Hair loss
- Regular illness
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Slowed healing of wounds
- Bone pain and loss
Here are some food options for extra vitamin D:
- Egg yolk
- Oatmeal and cereal
- Cod liver oil
- Orange juice
- Canned tuna
- Milk and soy milk
Anemia is a very common condition, defined as a deficiency in the mineral iron. It can actually be quite serious and cause a host of other health conditions if left unchecked. Mild deficiencies do not typically manifest so severely, but they do cause minor issues – and one of those issues has to do with sleep.
Anemia is a common factor in a condition known as restless leg syndrome. As its name suggests, it involves the uncontrollable movement of the legs, especially when lying down. This means that, even if you fall asleep fine, the sudden jerking of your limbs can cause you to wake back up again, ruining your sleep. This may carry on repeatedly throughout a whole night.
There are plenty of iron-rich foods available, but iron supplements are fairly common. It is worth noting, though, that if you are consuming iron-rich foods but continue to show signs of anemia, it may be the sign of a more serious health issue. Speak to your doctor if you notice any such issues.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Appetite loss
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Chest pain
- Brittle nails
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Short breath
- Cold extremities
- Increased, rapid heart rate
- Cravings for non-food items
- Sore or inflamed tongue
Here are some food options for extra iron:
- Green vegetables
- Red meat
- Dried fruit
- Whole grains
4. Vitamin B6
Commonly known as pyridoxine, this water-soluble nutrient is crucial for the conversion of amino acids into the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. This means it facilitates positive thinking and keeps your mood balanced.
The balanced levels of serotonin are also good for you because they help to balance your melatonin in turn. In short, one balanced hormone usually leads to other equally balanced hormones. So, regulating your mood is essentially crucial to your sleep.
In addition, studies have shown that individuals who do not consume sufficient vitamin B6 wind up dealing with bad quality of sleep. Further research indicates that consuming supplements for vitamin B6 help sleep cycles to be more restorative and restful; study participants woke up feeling more refreshed and energized every morning.
Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as chickpeas, salmon, watermelon, and spinach.
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:
- Increased frequency of sickness
- Cracking or soreness in lips
- Swelling, redness, or smoothness of tongue
- Pain in extremities
- Tingling in extremities
- Mood swings
Here are some food options for extra vitamin B6:
- Chicken liver
- Sweet potato
- Green peas
Magnesium plays a big role in producing enzymes. One such enzyme is linked to the production of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. Without enough GABA, your nervous system suffers, your senses are dulled, and sleeping gets more difficult to do.
Magnesium deficiency has been tied, multiple times, to classic symptoms of insomnia. It’s also a fairly dangerous mineral to get too little of, as it can cause a lot of normal bodily functions to crank to a halt. It can also lead to mood swings, anxiety, and fewer positive brain function overall.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Lack of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heart rate
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle twitching and contractions
- Mood disorders
Here are some food options for extra magnesium:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and legumes
- Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains
- Cacao and dark chocolate
- Green beans
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is good for many, many things, and you probably know it best for combating sickness. But it’s also very good for regulating stress, helping to bring down stress hormone levels. This, in turn, can help make for better sleep because stress typically manifests through insomnia or restless sleep.
Research has, in fact, indicated that vitamin C reduces the levels of cortisol, which is a particularly well-known stress hormone, in the body. This is how it improves your overall tolerance to stress and helps to prevent sleep deprivation.
Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include:
- Lack of immunity
- Bent or curling body hair
- Joint pain and swelling
- Delay in wound healing
- Redness on hair follicles
- Gum bleeding
- Lines or redness on fingernails
- Rough, damaged, and dry skin
- Easy bruising
- Bone weakness
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
Here are some food options for extra vitamin C:
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard leaves
- Citrus fruit
Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone. Without it, sleep just isn’t possible. That’s why it’s a good thing that the body produces this hormone all on its own. The problem is that a lot of habits can reduce this hormone’s presence.
Bright lights, including from all sorts of device screens, are the primary cause of melatonin deficiency in our modern world. Blue light filters help somewhat, but not nearly as much as they need to. A bad diet can also cause melatonin production to go downhill.
For better melatonin production, you can opt for healthier foods and more positive bedtime routines that don’t involve a TV, computer, or phone screen. Melatonin supplements are also available for those who truly struggle with producing enough of this crucial hormone.
Some foods are believed to up melatonin production. Here are your options:
- Tart cherries
- Goji berries
Final Thoughts On Some Deficiencies That Make It Hard To Fall Asleep
Deficiencies can be the sources of bad sleep, and they put you at higher risk of developing sleep disorders. It’s important to make sure that your diet and lifestyle include all the essential nutrients that your body needs or you risk facing more than just bad sleep.
There are plenty of options for you, from adjusting your meal plans to taking supplements to help eradicate deficiencies. Do note, of course, that too much of these nutrients is just as bad as a deficiency, if not worse, so make sure you eat everything in balance!
Unfortunately, nutritional deficiencies cause numerous health problems when they become too serious. If you suspect a severe deficiency, speak to your doctor immediately. You should also discuss taking supplements or making significant dietary changes with a medical professional first before taking the plunge.